Adapted from Human Givens No 1 2013 Brinol P et al. Treating thoughts as material objects can increase or decrease their impact on evaluation. Psychological Science 24.1, 41-7. 2013.
Writing down negative thoughts, crumpling them up, and throwing them away, as often advocated by therapists, really does reduce negative thinking. Conversely, writing positive thoughts down, and keeping them safe in a purse or pocket helps you feel better.
Teenage School students in Spain were asked to write down either positive or negative thoughts about their bodies and then Mediterranean diet and they were then evaluated on how much they became influenced by their lists later on.
What they found was that people who threw the list in the trash right away were not influenced, those who kept the list in their desk were somewhat influenced, but that those who kept the list more personally in a pocket or purse were most influenced.
To see if the effect worked with word lists via a computer, the experiment was repeated. The thoughts were put into storage or the trash list. Repeating the experiment but simply asking the students to imagine putting the list in a particular location without physically doing anything was also done.
Professor Richard Petty, a co-author of the paper from Ohio University said, ” The more convinced the person is that negative thoughts are really gone, the better. Just imagining that you throw them away doesn’t seem to work”.
So, to get over a difficult event, write it down, and then bin it and be physical.
If you want to boost your mood, write positive facts or feelings and keep it close and personal.